Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year, new approach

Melaine Walker “demands a lot of herself”.

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Column in The Jamaica Observer - 5 January 2009

I am writing this on New Year's Day in Negril. There was hardly an empty table in the popular beach restaurant where we had dinner and tourists were strolling up and down Norman Manley Boulevard, no doubt happy to have escaped the bitter cold of their winter.

So here we are in a country where we never have to worry about heating bills or expensive winter clothes, still cursing our condition, even as others regard us as a paradise. Our visitors do not appear to be super-rich - some save for many years to be able to enjoy the beauty of our country, while our inner-city children long for a parent who will plan a bus trip for them to see a beach.

On this, the first Monday of 2009, could we pause for a moment to remember why we are so appealing to the rest of the world:

. We are a strong democracy, earning high marks for the conduct of elections from both local and foreign election watchers.

. Our music and musicians are renowned.

. We are the "sprint factory" of the world, witness the astonishing performance of our athletes in Beijing.

. Our heroes, in particular Marcus Mosiah Garvey. Ken Jones quotes Martin Luther King Jr: "Marcus Garvey . was the first man on a mass scale, to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny and make the Negro feel that he was somebody."

. Our fertile lands with quality yield - best coffee, pimento, ginger in the world.

. The matchless beauty of our landscape, with world-renowned landmarks.

. Superior infrastructure for utilities and information technology.

. Excellent professionals in every sphere of Jamaican life.

. Myriad opportunities for self-improvement through adult education, scholarships, small and micro-business loans.

. Generous charity organisations and funding agencies donating tens of millions each year to promote sustainable programmes and projects.

We have many inspiring examples of achievers who have beaten the odds. Only recently we met two Alpha Academy graduates from the inner city, Niesha Doyle and Tavia Davis, first beneficiaries of the Sister Mary Bernadette Little Scholarship Fund (established by the Alpha Florida Chapter). Now UWI students, both young ladies obtained over 10 CXC subjects, most with distinction.

Recently, my colleagues had the pleasure of working with Melaine Walker on a road safety campaign. They came away deeply impressed by this young woman's insistence on getting the message right. "No wonder she won the Gold," they said."She demands a lot of herself."

So why is it that some youngsters from struggling families aspire, while others languish in despair? Each achiever usually tells of a parent, relative, teacher, pastor or other mentor who took the time to give constant support and encouragement. But we cannot continue to hope that some mentor will come along and save a child; parents must be held accountable for the well-being of their children. This is not just an inner-city problem, as guidance counsellors have disturbing reports from every single stratum of Jamaican society.

Here is a list of 10 ways in which we can make a difference this year and be worthy of emulation.

(1) Be a better parent. Even if funds are limited, spend time with your child.

(2) Own up to addictions -food, liquor, television, Internet, consumerism - then work to
beat them.

(3) Be positive - negativity is often a symptom of plain laziness.

(4) Volunteer.

(5) Make sure you share -strange as it may seem, it's the only way to true prosperity.

(6) Be organised - keep a daily schedule, write lists, be time aware and be punctual.

(7) Be productive -challenge yourself to complete tasks on time or before time.

(8) Be Internet and e-mail-savvy. If you have not yet learned, get a friend to give you some hands-on lessons, or sign up for a course. It's the most efficient way
to communicate.

(9) Join a church and worship regularly -every single study is linking achievement and good health to spiritual well-being.

(10) Be frugal - save, budget, conserve, repair and take good care of your possessions - your child is watching you!

If there is one body that has the power to help us make that quantum leap towards justice, peace and prosperity, it is the church of Jamaica, all the various denominations with many times the membership of the political parties. Several years ago we quoted the former head of the Peace Corps in Jamaica, Dr Suchet Loois, expressing this hope. Now we are hearing that the church has become too divided to be an effective change agent. Meanwhile, only one clergyman (who has proclaimed many of us to be dumb and dunce) seems to be grabbing the headlines.

Should the churches be actively seeking out the "deadbeat dads", counselling them and helping them to play an active role in the lives of their children? Should church groups monitor the pretenders to the pulpit so they do not take advantage of less educated folk? We have many dedicated, brilliant and patriotic church leaders. What an awesome force for change they could be if they spoke with one strong voice.

As we step into this new year, we should be energised by the fact that we live in a place that millions in war-torn areas can only imagine. Even with global and local challenges, we are still well positioned to make 2009 a good year for Jamaica.

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